Guide to Composting in the Summer

Read the full story at Earth911.

Though it’s hard to imagine after such an unseasonably cold spring, summer is right around the corner – a great time to start your very own compost pile or tend to your existing pile.

Composting speeds up nature’s decomposition process to turn household food scraps, yard trimmings and even some paper products into a rich soil amendment that you can use in your garden.

Ford Says There’s Wealth in Weeds

Read the full post at New York Times Wheels.

Petroleum is found throughout passenger vehicles, not only in the gas tank. But Ford announced on Tuesday a project intended to minimize its reliance on petroleum-based vehicle components, and it chose an unlikely standard bearer: the dandelion.

Developed in collaboration with Ohio State University, the project harnesses the scourge of lawn tenders worldwide, Taraxacum kok-saghyz, commonly called the Russian dandelion, to produce a versatile, milky-white substance that can be used as a plastics modifier. The substance, Ford said, could find application in cup holders, floor mats and interior trim pieces, replacing synthetic rubber commonly used in these applications.

Pharmaceutical company greens iconic New Jersey building

Read the full story at SmartPlanet.

Pharmaceutical giant Roche has turned an obsolete laboratory facility in Nutley, N.J., into new green office space by combining elements of intelligent lighting technology and architectural design features that reduce the building’s power consumption.

The retrofit of “building 76,” which started about 18 months ago, has been registered for a Silver certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) program run by the U.S. Green Building Council. The project encompassed an overhaul of more than half the floors on the building; the demolished materials were earmarked for reuse by the general contractor. This particular site already had an extensive recycling program: Each year it recycles up to 453 tons of cardboard, 131 tons of paper, three tons of fluorescent lamps, and 64 tons of landscaping debris.

Location Efficiency: The Energy Impact of Where We Build

Read the full story at BuildingGreen.

We spend a lot of time and money making our homes more energy efficient. Whether adding insulation, upgrading windows, replacing incandescent light bulbs, or replacing appliances, efforts we make to use less energy save us money and help the environment. But what about where we live?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just released a report on “location efficiency”–the idea that where we live has an impact on our energy consumption. The findings are clear and profound. In conventional suburban development, an average American home uses 108 million BTUs (British Thermal Units–a measure of energy consumption) per year for operation (heating, cooling, lighting, etc.). But that same house uses 132 million BTUs per year in transportation energy use–for a total of 240 million BTU/year. In other words, for that average home, 55% of its total energy use is for transportation, and 45% is for operations.

Now, if the house is located in a “transit-oriented development” (a pedestrian-friendly place where residents can walk to restaurants, basic services, and public transit), the transportation energy use drops to 39 million BTUs per year–just 26% of that home’s total annual energy use of 147 million BTU/year (see chart). The study was conducted by Jonathan Rose Companies, which has long championed “Smart Growth” and affordable housing. You can read about this new study on

Exclusive: Empire State Building boss argues energy efficiency trumps renewables

Read the full story at BusinessGreen.

The man behind the green refurbishment of one of the world’s most famous buildings has said that the money put towards subsidies for large renewable energy projects would be better spent on improving the energy efficiency of the world’s building stock.

Anthony Malkin, whose Empire State Building Company owns the iconic New York skyscraper, told BusinessGreen that subsidies to increase wind or solar energy capacity are not as effective in terms of carbon savings or job creation as incentives that promote the renovation of existing buildings.

Heart of Glass

Read the full story in Sustainable Industries Journal.

We may need to ditch that aphorism about throwing stones at glass houses.

Two engineering graduate students at the University of Washington have found a way to make bricks out of recycled glass that they say are stronger, lighter and better insulators than conventional building blocks.

Renuka Prabhakar and Grant Marchelli claim their VitroBricks require 80 percent less energy to produce because they’re fired at a much lower temperature for a shorter time. Most promising of all, according to the engineers, their invention can put to work the millions of tons of discarded glass that end up in landfills each year.

Arizona State research team to fight algae contamination

Read the full story in Biodiesel Magazine.

The number one challenge the emerging algae industry faces today, according to Arizona State University professor Qiang Hu, is algal culture protection. Hu recently received a $1 million, five-year grant from the USDA to study how, why, when and where bugs like zooplankton can negatively affect or contaminate an algae culture. He spoke with Biorefining Magazine on why the issue is so important to the industry. “Basically, when you build them, they (the bugs) will come,” he said on algae research efforts that involve small- to even large-scale culture ponds or bioreactors.

New Strategy Aims to Reduce Agricultural Ammonia Emissions

Read the press release.

As concerns about air pollution from large dairies and other concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) continue to mount, scientists are reporting a practice that could cut emissions of an exceptionally abundant agricultural gas — ammonia — by up to 30%.

In the May-June 2011 issue of the Journal of Environmental Quality, a team led by Mark Powell, a soil scientist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center in Madison, WI, describes how natural plant compounds known as tannins can reduce both the amount of nitrogen cows excrete in urine, and the action of a microbial enzyme in manure that converts the nitrogen into ammonia on the barn floor.

The Death of the McMansion

Read the full story at Slate.

When the housing market returns, we’ll want smaller homes built closer together.

Navigating the New Global Energy Management Standard

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

The International Standards Organization publishes a new guideline this year, establishing a framework for energy management systems for buildings, industrial plants, commercial facilities and utilities. Though the new standard is voluntary, it could influence as much as 60 percent of the world’s energy use.

How could the new standard, ISO 50001, affect your business? How is it different from earlier ISO environmental standards? And what opportunities and implications does it hold for companies? gathered a panel of energy and sustainability executives for a webinar on the subject. “ISO 50001: Preparing for the New Energy Management Standard,” this week.